11.14.2011 0

What would Thomas Jefferson do?

By Rick ManningFox News’ Chad Pergram has a great story, “Stalking the Super Committee”, details the challenges facing reporters trying to find out what the so-called Super Committee is considering in their mandated quest to cut at least $1.2 trillion in deficits over the next ten years.

Pergram’s piece details the stake outs of obscure rooms in the Capitol Building that not even long serving Senators know how to find.

The article talks about the back stair exits from certain meeting rooms that create easy escape from the front door watching media.

It is truly a must read that, in truth, caused a wave of disgust to wash over me.

No one but the most ardent Schoolhouse Rock fan believes that legislation becomes law exclusively through the system we all learned in our textbooks.

Legislation gets discussed privately between members, staff and ‘gasp’ even lobbyists and citizens on the phone, at lunch through e-mail, texts and even while walking back from the Capitol building to Members respective offices.

The offensive part of the Super Committee is that it exists explicitly to avoid a public debate about the best way to tackle the most important problem facing our nation.

The Super Committee concept throws away more than 225 years of Congress doing its job through committees consisting of legislators who have spent careers becoming issue experts to a system where the important stuff is delegated to twelve representatives of their political party leaders working behind closed doors to hash out a deal that is presented take it or leave it to the rest of the elected representatives.

Tea party Republicans got elected on a wave of signs and jokes about “having to pass it to read it” referring to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment about Obamacare.

And for their first three months in the House, things seemed to have changed. No one can forget the first messy, laborious budget debate in the House. Incredibly, House members actually discussed and debated the value of various government programs and in some cases voted to eliminate them.

Predictably, the Senate did nothing with the House budget.

Since that fateful decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to refuse to do his job, our nation has been subjected to failed closed door meeting after failed closed door meeting. We have seen House Speaker John Boehner, Leader Reid and President Obama shuttling around town trying to come up with a deal. We have had a golf course summit on the budget. We have seen haunted eyed staff scurrying to and fro trying to reach the latest deal to keep the government running.

What we haven’t seen is the actual Committees in the House and Senate empowered to do their work, create a spending plan for the United States government, fight it out between the two houses in a conference committee, and submit appropriations bills to the President for his signature.

What we haven’t seen is the actual system that worked for more than 225 years being allowed to work.

Much of this fault falls with the Democratic Party controlled Senate which has failed to pass a budget for more than 900 days, but part of it lies with the House Speaker as well, who jettisoned the work of his fellow House members all too easily to engage in the frenetic shuttle diplomacy deal that ultimately resulted in the Super Committee.

As we approach a Nov. 18 deadline for the federal government to run out of money again, and the Nov. 23 deadline for the Super Committee to produce a plan to cut a meager $1.2 trillion out of the budget over the next ten years, expect another flurry of activity.

Unfortunately, little of that activity will take place in the public eye. Little of that activity will be in Committee rooms with CSPAN rolling. Little of that activity will include the opportunity for the American public to weigh in on the big issues facing our nation.

The decision by our nation’s congressional leaders to deliberately exclude the American people from the spending and tax decisions is such an egregious assault on basic democratic principles that Thomas Jefferson must be spinning in his grave.

Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence wrote in that document, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”.

Just as in 1776, America is in deep trouble. Our leaders seem more interested in soundbites and elections rather than solving these problems. We are the greatest nation in the history of the world, yet our leaders are so afraid of the people that they hide in offices, that men far greater than they, once occupied.

It is time for the leaders to come back to doing their jobs, putting our nation back on a path toward fiscal sanity, and letting the people participate in this process through all the normal channels.

It will be ugly. Disagreements will be aired. Compromises will be made. But, if done in the sunlight, those choices will be understood.

The principles that are being fought over will be heard as more than campaign rhetoric, but as a vision for governance. And the American people will then decide what kind of America they want.

Hiding from the press corps accomplishes none of that, and that is why the excellent story by Chad Pergram left me with a heavy heart, because it reveals a congressional leadership which would rather not have the American people engaged in the greatest debate of our time.

And that is a fundamental mistake.

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Rick on Twitter at @RManning957.

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